One of New York’s most famous restaurateurs is being accused of sexual harassment after throwing wild parties in what became known as ‘the rape room’

Spotted Pig employees said Friedman, pictured on the right, created a hyper-sexualized culture at the restaurant.

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Spotted Pig employees said Friedman, pictured on the right, created a hyper-sexualized culture at the restaurant.
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Amy Sussman / Getty

  • Restaurateur Ken Friedman is taking a leave of absence after being accused of sexual harassment.
  • Former employees of his New York City restaurants described receiving unwanted contact and advances from Friedman.
  • Friedman apologized for his behavior on Tuesday.

Restaurateur Ken Friedman is taking a leave of absence after being accused of sexual harassment, according to The New York Times.

Ten women who were former employees of his restaurants described receiving unwanted contact or sexual advances from Friedman and some of his famous guests, including Mario Batali, who also announced on Monday that he was “stepping away” from his restaurants after being accused of inappropriate sexual conduct.

Friedman is best known for his restaurant The Spotted Pig, a celebrity hotspot he opened in Manhattan 2004. Batali is also an investor in that restaurant.

Some former employees interviewed by The Times said that Friedman behaved irresponsibly at his restaurants, allegedly showing up to work intoxicated, groping and kissing employees in public, encouraging his employees to drink alcohol or consume drugs with him, and engaging in a number of consensual sexual relationships with his employees. Some employees who alerted their superiors to Friedman’s behavior claimed they were told to accept it or were later fired, according to the Times.

In addition to The Spotted Pig, Friedman owns several restaurants with his business partner, chef April Bloomfield: the Breslin Bar & Dining Room, the John Dory Oyster Bar, Salvation Taco, and White Gold Butchers in New York; Tosca Cafe in San Francisco; and Hearth & Hound in Los Angeles.

The Spotted Pig’s VIP-friendly third floor fell under particular scrutiny. While celebrities like Beyonce, Kim Kardashian, and Kanye West have eaten there during the restaurant’s normal operating hours, employees described after-hours parties that quickly became predatory, as Friedman’s guests would allegedly grope and harass female employees.

The third floor’s reputation spread throughout the restaurant industry, leading some to refer to it as “the rape room.”

Friedman apologized for his behavior on Tuesday.

“I own my behavior which can accurately be described at times as abrasive, rude, and frankly wrong. The women who work at our restaurants are among the best in the business, and putting any of them in humiliating situations is unjustifiable. Some incidents were not as described, but context and content are not today’s discussion. I apologize now publicly for my actions,” he said in a statement to The Times.